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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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below their true costs, and demand for them is greater than it would be under conditions of full cost allocation.
Finally, people are neither mechanical robots nor fruit flies in their reproductive behavior. Parents the world over tend to behave over their lifetimes as if they were rational economic persons. Children entail costs and they provide satisfactions and returns. Parents tend to try to have an economically optimal number of children. In poor countries one reason for present high birth rates is that, in a very real sense, children are the poor man's capital.
The Role of Population and Income Growth in Resource Demand
Aggregate demand for resources is the product of per capita income and numbers of people. The relative roles of these two factors differ over time, between regions and countries, and in their impact on quantity and quality aspects of demands for different resources. In countries characterized by high income and low or moderate population growth, the effect of rising income in most situations outweighs that of rising numbers, often substantially, and the impact of high income is greater on quality than on quantity. That is to say, despite rising population, these nations have had only relatively transitory problems in procuring their material resources, by and large at constant cost and in some instances even at declining cost.
Rising incomes have triggered a vast expansion of durable goods mainly powered by mechanical energy, and nondurables designed to ease the burden of daily routines. Their joint effect has been not to create material scarcities, as was feared by some economists at the turn of the century and quite generally in the decade following World War II, but, as the ecologists had warned, to strain the capacity of the environment to absorb both the products that have served their purpose and the unintended by-products or residuals resulting from production, distribution, and consumption.
Income, rather than number, of consumers has been the more important factor in producing pollution. Analysis of historical data reveals that increases in aggregate energy consumption are caused to the extent of about two thirds by rising per capita consumption, i.e. income, and one third by rising population; and this appears to be as true in high income countries like the United States or the United Kingdom as in India or other low income countries. Especially striking is electricity generation, which is an important source of air pollution. In the past 30 years or so, 10 percent, at most, of the growth of electricity consumption can be attributed to population increase.
Human numbers as such have been a potent factor in aggravating the problem of maintaining privacy, or simply elbow room, which for a growing share of the population is harder to find. But even here, income is a factor. Rising per capita income, compounded by increased leisure time and more